Experience with young children at birth? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 20 Old 01-01-2003, 12:22 PM - Thread Starter
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We're planning a homebirth in April, at which time DS will be 27 months. Throughout the pregnancy we've thought we really wanted him to be there. I've had these idyllic (and perhaps a bit too idealistic) images of him witnessing the birth of his sibling, and of our family's growth. Of course, we plan on having someone he's very close to him present just for him...with the ability to leave and come as they need. I had really been hoping that he could be there for the actual moment of birth...I really think it would help him understand what's going on better than if there were suddenly a baby in our family that he didn't witness enter! My first labor was very short, so I anticipate the same thing this time. We're continuing to prepare him by reading stories, talking about it often, looking at his own birth photos,etc.

BUT, as the time approaches, I'm starting to wonder about the reality of having a toddler at the birth. He's sooo active, and sooo busy. How will that fit with the calm energy of the birth environment that I might need? He's also still nursing (not often, though)...and I suddenly have fears of him wanting milk in the middle of labor and me snapping at him! Though DH will be able to attend to him a bit, I can't imagine that I will at all. How will he deal with me shutting off to him like that?

So, please, please, please....share your experiences with toddlers/young children at births. Did it work? What are some things that helped?

I appreciate your thoughts!

mama to Calvin, 1/23/01 and baby bean #2 arriving 4/03
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#2 of 20 Old 01-01-2003, 02:09 PM
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My daughter was 27mos when her little sister was born. My labor started in the late afternoon. We came home from the festival we were attending, I napped while dd helped her dad make us dinner, then we all had dinner together while I labored lightly (mild contractions every 10-15 minutes). Dd and dh cleaned up, while I sat on the patio and enjoyed the sunset. We put dd to bed, then called my mom to come over to be with her. As it was getting late, we all went to bed. My mom slept in dd's bed with her.

I consciously relaxed my body and mind in my own bed for about an hour, and then I fell asleep. Six minutes later I had a new kind of contraction. My water broke immediately and it was on! Dh called our midwife and my best friend. I had a beautifully sweet (and short) labor and birth--our two year old slept through all of it.

We woke her up shortly after the birth and she came in to meet her new sister & snuggle in bed with us & share some snacks. Our wise and wonderful midwife included her in the new baby's exam, which she loved. My mom took our new baby into dd's room and helped dd hold her and love on her while we dealt with some minor post-partum complications. At the time I really wanted our new babe with me, but I didn't want our toddler to witness the blood & pain, so I let them go.

I'm glad things ended up as they did. I believe I unconsciously held off my labor until my older child was tucked safely into bed. I definately didn't want to send her away for the birth, but I really didn't want her there either, kwim?

Now my girls are 3.5 & 16mos. They have a great relationship. Whenever the topic of birth comes up (which it does often around here, lol!) older one tells everyone that she helped take care of the younger one when she was born. The time she spent with my mom & her new sister in her bedroom seems to be the strongest memory of the birth. Truthfully, I'm a little jealous that I wasn't a part of that, but if I had been I'm sure the dynamic would have been completely different and probably not as special to her.

We went into our birth with no concrete plans and faith in my mom to make the best decisions for our older daughter. I didn't want myself or my partner to be responsible for monitoring her reaction to my labor or to birth. My mom did fine with our toddler, but if I were to do it again, I'd hire a doula for my daughter. Although she tries to be positive and supportive, my mom distrusts birth on a deeper level. Now that my oldest is so much older, it's important to me that she be attended by someone who is comfortable and confident.

Good luck, Mama. I'm sure you'll figure out something that works for you.

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#3 of 20 Old 01-01-2003, 02:44 PM
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Dear Friend:

I never had any of my young ones in the room at the time, but immediately after, they ran into the room to welcome the new one. My labors were long, loud and painful.

I would recommend that you have a trusted adult at your birth whose only responsibility is to tend to the needs of your beautiful child. That poor child will soon have lots of questions and have his/her position in the family uprooted, so it is a good idea to have this child watched and fully tended to while you give your full attention to the labor you have to do.

That way, your toddler can be there if everything goes very smoothly. If something unexpected comes up, that can be taken care of also very quickly, as in the case of an unexpected transport.

Good Luck...!
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#4 of 20 Old 01-01-2003, 03:22 PM
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I think that your worries are normal but as long as you have someone to be with your son he can be a part of the birth as much as he wants. I have 3 children and siblings were always there. The first time my son slept through dd's birth (just a few feet away in same room). And with my youngest son's birth both ds#1 and dd WOKE UP and stayed awake until wee in the am to see baby born. They were so excited they cheered when he was born! Children know when they do or don't want to be around. Don't stress. Find someone your son is very happy to be with and can explain what is happening is normal and you are okay. And I bet it will all work itself out! Blessings
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#5 of 20 Old 01-03-2003, 03:02 AM
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There is a good book on this called "Children at Birth." I think the author's last name is Hathaway.

I had my older child (then 2 years and nine days) at my birth. He slept thru and could have cared less.

I know of a lot of moms who have their older children there. They just prepare them ahead of time, have a special person there to care for them, and let the kids choose what level of involvement they want.
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#6 of 20 Old 01-03-2003, 03:12 AM
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I, too, had lofty ideals about my toddler attending our homebirth. I started having second thoughts when I burned my thumb the other day. She cried and cried at my reaction of pain (and it wasn't much)--it really scared her. I've stubbed my toe since then and she got a terribly worried look on her face and teared up.

Needless to say, I've rethought the decision. I don't think she will be able to handle the sounds (I'm a loud birther).

I think with the right mother/child combo it could work. It won't for us, though.

Violet 7-14-00
Zoe EDD 2-14-03
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#7 of 20 Old 01-03-2003, 03:05 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for all your thoughts, wise mamas! As you all mentioned, I think we're figuring out that the most important element is having the *right* person there for him, someone who he's close to, understands birth and all the dynamics that may be happening. I've just got to figure out who that is, and I think I'll feel much better!

DS was born in the middle of the day, but I'm secretly hoping for a midnight birth this time, as some you you described having! My midwife seems to think second babies tend to come in the middle of the night just for that reason...while the other kids are asleep! That would be perfect...then we could just wake him at the last minute, or immediately after birth.

Thanks for the book name, PerfectLove...I'll check that out.

Thanks again...it really helps me to visualize what might happen when I hear all of your experiences.

mama to Calvin 1/23/01, and baby bean #2 arriving 4/03
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#8 of 20 Old 01-06-2003, 05:20 PM
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I just had to post this - I was watching a Birth Day that was at a Birth Center, and the woman in labor had her husband and toddler (she was maybe 3?) there. At one point she was having obviously stronger contractions than before, and she was leaning against the bed frame. Her husband was coaching (?) her through the contraction saying "in in out.... in in out" for her breathing. Pretty soon her kid was jumping up and down on the bed yelling "IN IN OUT IN IN OUT IN IN OUT!!!". I can't beleive that lady didn't snap! I was cracking up, as I was sooooo focused inward during my labor I didn't want anyone to talk to me.
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#9 of 20 Old 01-06-2003, 06:24 PM
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My oldest was 19 mo when #2 was born. I had done lots of noisy preperation-- lots of moaning and vocalizing for months before the birth with him, but that was really it.
My labour really started about 4:30 in the morning, he had gotten up to nurse and I asked dh for something and for a few minutes we were all crying and yelling. But the rest of the labour was good. At 6 my friend who was watching ds came over. He did leave at one time to go for a ride and nap, but was in the tub with me for a while but mostly just played and seemed unconcerned by my noises. I did nurse him a couple of times- but one time (during transistion) he walked into the room I was in and I was like "noooo" and he left with my friend just fine. He was there when I pushed out his brother at 2 in the afternoon.

I am so glad it was during the day, but I believe that children really do know if something important is going on. Most days he might have been upset if I told someone to take him away, but he could understand that I needed a little more space.

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#10 of 20 Old 01-07-2003, 12:17 AM
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My dd is just 10 days older than your ds and our edd is in April as well. I'm wondering about the same thing.

For labor support, I will have dh. My mom will be there to take care of dd. If dd isn't doing well with the labor/birth, either my mom will take dd to my MIL's house or my dad will come get her (he'll probably wait at MIL's house).

I want to give her the chance to be there, but if it doesn't work out she'll be just a few blocks away at MIL's house.

I'm curious to see how it works out. My first labor was fast (8 hours from start of pitocin to birth) but this one will be my first true go into labor on my own, so I don't know if it will be faster or not.

Michelle & Bill and Elana 01/13/01 & Jeremy ETA 04/25/03 <><
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#11 of 20 Old 01-07-2003, 12:54 AM
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My DD was 29 months when Skye was born.
I made sure she knew ALL about birth before the big event. I showed her lots of NORMAL birth videos... ie, homebirths and birth center births. I always talked about how many mommies "scream" their babies out, how hard mommies work to birth babies, etc. etc. She loved the birth videos and books! She still asks to watch/read them.
Anyhow, we invited my MIL over on the big day to take care of DD and our dogs. MIL kept DD occupied pretty much the whole time. (Although, it should be noted that labor doesn't really demand my attention until I'm about nine centimeters or so.) I was in the bedroom pushing, and when I felt crowning, the midwife called DD and MIL into the room. I was screaming my head off, and MIL took DD out into the hallway. I stopped screaming and yelled, "NO! Come back in!" I could hear my MIL saying, "See, just like in the movies! Mommy's having a baby!" After the midwife caught her little brother, she jumped up and down, clapping and laughing, yelling, "Baby came out! The baby came out!" She crawled up and sat with me while the midwife and I tried to get him going... he was pretty blue and limp. She talked to him and kissed him and was ecstatic.
She's not jealous or resentful toward her brother at all. I think watching the birth helped out in that respect.
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#12 of 20 Old 01-12-2003, 04:19 AM
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I planned to have my 4 yo dd there. And a friend for her needs exclusively, as mentioned above, but I went into labor after she went to bed.
I just wanted privacy and my midwife was ok with not calling my friend until (If) we needed her so my dd slept thru the whole thing. My dh got her up immediately after the birth. Boy was she happy !!! we got great pictures!
She then saw me deliver a big messy placenta with huge clots and she was totally undisturbed about it and she cut the cord. prepared children do fine with the birth but may or may not be good with the labor-depends on the kid
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#13 of 20 Old 01-12-2003, 11:04 AM
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I thought about having my 2 children in the apartment with us when my dd was born. They were 5 yo and 22 mos old at the time. I got a video to show them of natural birth, and it was okay, even though my older boy seemed a bit offset by it.

To make a long story short, the second I had my first contraction (at 7 a.m.), I did not want anyone around except for my dh. I was in the most rotten mood for a few hours, before I could get them over to a friend's house with my step-mother who came to watch them. The second I was alone with dh, I calmed down, and got down to the business of birthing (well, it took until 7:45 p.m.).

Sometimes you don't know what you will want until you are in the middle of it!

Good luck!!!
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#14 of 20 Old 01-13-2003, 03:30 AM
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One thing I read, I think in Silent KNife, is that all children should have the opportunity to attend but no child should be forced to. A child should be free to leave at any time, and any adults who are supervising the child must be willing to leave whenever the child wants to - even if it's at the moment of birth.

Good reason to have someone other than your dh and midwife there, I guess. Maybe a trusted friend to watch the child?
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#15 of 20 Old 01-13-2003, 04:11 AM
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When my 2nd was born, my daughter was 3, and she slept through the labor (middle of the night). We had prepared her in case she wanted to be there, and had helpers there just for her. She came downstairs and saw the baby just after the birth.

When my 3rd was born, we prepared both girls (6 & 3) for the birth with books, and parts of some videos we got from a relative who is a Bradley instructor. They had the choice. My oldest was pretty much there the whole time, and loved it. The 3 yo was sleeping for much of it, but woke up (middle of the night) and wanted to nurse. I was nearing the end of labor. My mom was there to comfort her, and did a pretty good job. She ended up coming in during transition, but was very, very quiet. She stood there watching and was very sleepy. She sort of just gradually fell to the floor little by little and fell asleep. She tried so hard to stay awake. We woke her up a few hours after the birth, and she was so excited to have a new sister.

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#16 of 20 Old 01-20-2003, 06:12 PM
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I was going to post and ask the same question. I have a four year old and two year old. I wanted them to be a the birth of our baby in May. I have had both of my children induced as naturally as possible. My ds was two weeks late and my midwife had me take a homeopathic pill which started labor within an hour. My labor was 21 hrs with him. My dd is 2 and will be 2 and half when our baby is born. My water broke on a Wednesday and my midwives decided to try to induce with the same homeopathic pill on a Friday. My labor started then stopped. The midwives spent the night at my house and then began massage and herbs to get things going. It wasn't until 3pm that my dd came. Her labor was 24hrs. The midwives soon found out why my dd took so long to come. My bag of waters was three layers thick. I had my son spend the night at a friends house on a Thursday thinking I might progress sooner. I did not see him until an hour after our daughter was born on a Saturday. I really want him to be at this birth. He will be almost 5. I am hoping and praying that this birth will not need to be induced. My midwife told me that if my water breaks early she would have me take echinacea for a week and would monitor my progress.

Thanks for all your response to this question. You all gave me somethings to think about.
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#17 of 20 Old 01-22-2003, 12:48 AM
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We had our boys at the birth of our third and I found it to be overwelming. They ended up sleeping during the actual birth and woke up an hour or so after. That was the worst! It was great for them to see the new baby ect. But quite honestly they didn't care too much. The hours afterwards were a bit of a gong show. My mom went home when the boys were sleeping and had to be called to get them again afterwards. Next time I think we'll just skip them being there all together. Much less stressful on me and dh. We would like to spend that exciting time just focusing on the miracle of birth and getting aquainted with a new wee one.
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#18 of 20 Old 01-22-2003, 07:57 PM
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My first ds (2 1/2yo at the time) was at the home birth of our second ds and it was wonderful. I think three things made it work. First, we spent a lot of time preparing him for what it would be like. We talked about how mommy would make lots of noises (like a lion). We told him, mommy and daddy would be very busy and we lket him know who would be there to take care of him, and who would be there to help us. We told him it might take a long time. We took him to all the midwife visits so he was familiar with her and basic medical eqipments (stethescopes etc.). Second, we had a good friend attend the birth whose only job was to take care of my ds. He knows and trusts her and was very comfortable listening to her. She would take him in and out of where we were (he got bored after a little while) and would keep him busy, get him some food etc. Third, we bought him a disposable camera and gave him the "job" of photographer. This worked out so well, my midwife has since recommended it to other clients. The really funny part is he took great pictures, sure the heads got cut off, but they are SO candid (cause no one took him seriously). Anyway, I really loved him being there. He was a special part of his brother's birth and I think it has helped to make a special bond between them. When we talk about having another baby he tells us he will teach his younger brother what to do so they can both be there. So, I think it really depends on your children, the place of birth etc. But it can be great! Good luck!

Jen Wife to Jason and Mom to Cassidy 10y Malcolm8y & Lucas 5y
living in Canada and Costa Rica and slowly exploring the world
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#19 of 20 Old 01-23-2003, 12:50 AM
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I had hoped and planned for Theodore to witness the birth. I felt the same way in that he should know where the baby was coming from. To help with the transition.

It turned out wonderful. We had a close friend here (just happen to be visiting on vacation when I went into labor) and she took care of him. She told me at a later time that she really wanted to see the birth so she just picked him up and carried him into the bathroom where I was. I remember at one point he tried to give me a bath toy

My labor was extremely quick in the end and everyone was there. He remembers it pretty well. He tells us that his brother was born at home. We ask where, he says in the bathtub. (WAter birth). Even when he was the age at the birth he understood that Issac (his brother) was born in the water.

He did not have jeliousy problems and was peachy keen about the whole thing. Every kid is different. I agree that having a special person there just for them is good. Someone more than Daddy. Daddy should be focusing on you.

It's wonderful to see you including your child in the birth process. I also found it very useful to include our son in every aspect of the pregnancy and read lots of books and talked about babies and birth ALOT! My dh was pretty sick of it.

Good luck and I hope you have a wonderful experience.

mom to Theodore (3) and Issac (1) and # 3 EDD Oct 1

Shane - living the open life
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#20 of 20 Old 01-24-2003, 02:04 PM
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Been a LOOOONG time now...youngest almost 18...so...

When my daughter was born, my oldest son was 2 1/2.

To prepare him, he is very bright, so we talked about the birthing from time to time. I told him that my face might look like I was in pain, but for him to remember that what I was doing was like picking something up that was VERY heavy! And that the word "labor" meant HARD WORK. I went on to say that having a baby was very hard work. If you keep it simple, they get it.

We practiced our best hard work faces....like me asking him what his face would look like if he was pushing something VERY heavy. He showed me...and I showed him mine...etc. We talked about how it sounds when we are working very hard....and we grunted and moaned and so on.

I gave him a mirror to practice his hard work faces and he had fun with that.

When I was in labor, he watched Sesame Street; an episode with those two alien muppet guys with the lower lips that go side to side...and when I needed reminding about keeping my lower jaw loose, I imitated that and he came in and helped me with that. We laughed.

It was a loooooong labor, during a huge blizzard-y snowstorm. He was remarkably good about it all. It was fairly difficult labor and when my daughter was born, and all was well and calm...my son ran as fast as he could and leaped up onto the bed....onto his new sister...who just curled a bit more tightly, taking it in stride...I was freaked, but took my cue from her. No harm done.

When my youngest son was born, my oldest was about 4 or a bit more, and my daughter was 3. She helped my hubby bring me honey tea or a washcloth and she wiped my forehead and was very sweet. After the birth, this time very short and sweet, and after my best friend and neighbor came by with her preteen daughter (my friend only ever had one child by C-section so had never seen a really newborn baby), my daughter climbed into bed with her baby brother and I, and we slept sweetly. My oldest son just played and slept or read.

I think that it takes real preparation work to make it a good experience...and I also think another really big key is that all important extra person who is there for your child or children. It's essential. My hubby did double duty and that was cool, but it is asking alot of someone who is emotionally trying to be there for you in your labor and also for your kid(s).

The book "Children at Birth" is fabulous and may be where I got the idea for all the prep work I did with my son for my daughter's birth. Use every opportunity to work with making hard work faces and making hard work noises. If you see someone working hard on TV or a video you are all watching, take advantage and talk about it. Make whatever your prep work is, age-appropriate. Too much info will make them turn off. Too little well, could leave them hanging. Have your kids' helper for labor work with them too.

There are also probably childrens' books about childbirth...and maybe even about homebirth and new siblings. Again, make it age-appropriate.

Well that is all I can remember. Remember even if you are anticipating a quick birthing because the first one was, well, every birthing may tend to be similar...or not. My first was about 24 hours start to finish. My second was 40 hours...very hard. And my 3rd was 9 hours total. It can be very diverse!

And just as each labor is unique, each kid is too. So one sibling may enjoy and want to see the birth, and others may just not care. Try to prepare yourself to accept whatever happens with that.

I wish you all the best in your growing families...Joyce in the mts.

CD Labor/Postpartum (MSTM), Doula trainer (BAI), Midwifery Student/Apprentice, CPS Tech
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